Archives for July 2015

Anna – A Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was a little different… As I spoke to GrandMummy Plus Sarah Beeson MBE! Sarah and I talked about her recently released baby advice book, Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby, what is was like working so closely with her daughter Amy and why she thinks we are the best generation of parents yet. There is also a chance to win a signed copy of The New Arrival , Sarah’s memoir of her time training to be a nurse in Hackney in the 70s. Read Sarah’s interview to find out more and comment to be in with a chance of winning!

Anna pictureToday’s Mummy Plus is Anna Hoffmann, who describes herself as “conserving, crafting, cooking, mothering, laughing and living in London.” Anna works full-time as a Paper Conservator as well as running her small business, Kurkuma, selling homemade ‘pretty useful gifts for babies and their parents.’ From handy bandana bibs to personalised pushchair mobiles, Anna’s creations make perfect gifts for new parents. As well as all this, Anna is also Mum to 15 month-old ‘Little C’. I caught up with Anna to find out how she fits it all in.


So, you’re a Paper Conservator. That sounds fascinating. What do you do, exactly?
A Paper Conservator cares for books, archives and works of art on paper. That could be actual remedial conservation if something is damaged, for example torn or dirty, but the bigger part of the work is usually to take care that damage doesn’t occur in the first place – by ensuring historic material is stored correctly, in appropriate boxes and at the correct temperature and humidity and by taking care that it is handled well, or exhibited in a way that doesn’t damage it. I specialised in the treatment of archival material and part of my work is to support the digitisation of archives and books.

How did you get into that and what do you like about it?
I first got interested in conservation because it is a combination of craftsmanship and science. Over the years I realised that I also like planning and implementing bigger projects as well as strategic work. My current job offers both; benchwork and more strategic work. It is a job where I can still learn and grow in many ways.

You started Kurkuma when you were on maternity leave. Have you always been crafty?
I’ve been crafting since I was very little – I started with folding origami boats, went on to making friendship bracelets, was introduced to knitting, crochet, embroidery and sewing by my grannies and my mum and to watercolour painting by my dad. I also did a jewellery making course when I was at school and a little bit of bookbinding – which eventually led to my profession as a paper conservator – and tried things like woodworking and pottery… Now I mainly focus on sewing and do little bit of knitting, crochet and cross stich along the way.

What was the first thing you made and sold through Kurkuma?
Just before I had officially started kurkuma, I made a nursing cover for myself which I took to a mum & baby yoga session. One of the mums loved it and when I told her that I had made it, she asked whether she could buy one! So this was the first item I sold… This mum became a lovely friend and she’s still a good customer. She even comes up with ideas for things I could make!

You returned to work – to a brand new job! – earlier this year after a year’s maternity leave. What was it like settling into a new routine?
Much easier than I expected it to be! I had heard from friends how hard they found it to return to work even if it was only part time, how badly they missed their babies and how difficult it was to settle them into nursery… So when we started, I kind of expected the worst. And none of it happened! My husband and I believe that if you don’t try, you don’t know whether you can actually do it. This is why I applied for the new job and why I started full time – and it works. I should add, it would have been much harder if not impossible, if my husband weren’t such a true ‘50/50-partner’ (great book tip: Getting to 50/50: How working parents can have it all), or if my work wouldn’t allow me to start later than 9am on some days, and finish at 4.30pm on other days…  My profession is a big part of who I am, so it felt absolutely right to go back to work, and to start that new job.

What do you feel your biggest challenges are now and how have these changed?
Eating healthy and fresh food – and preparing it myself! – is really important to me and I had to accept that with both of us working full time, it’s just not possible to cook a proper meal from scratch every evening. Especially when everyone gets home really hungry! It was hard for me to let go with this, I tried a meal plan and then I was stressing out about it – and now we just eat nice, healthy food but not all of it is prepared by us from scratch…

I’m pretty organised when it comes to my work but I’ve always been a bit chaotic with my private files and the household… and now that I’m a working mum it is even harder! I am a bit of a hoarder anyway and with a child there comes so much stuff, so to bring some order to  my house, that is an ongoing challenge. We have a cleaning lady now, which takes away pressure but I’m just so tired at the end of the day or the week that I don’t spend enough time on tidying or ‘life admin’. This is the same for Kurkuma, sadly, and I end up spending far less time on it than I thought I would or than I would like to do because I often feel I just don’t have any energy left for it.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
Talking to my husband and friends is inspiring and motivating; my husband gave me a lot of inspiration around managing myself and how to get the right work done – inspired by these conversations, I’m currently reading a lot on that topic: Authors like Peter Bregman (18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done) or David Allen (Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity) I find motivating (still trying to put it to practice though). As for my crafty side, fellow crafters and crafty friends are a big source of inspiration for me, both in ‘real life’ and  via blogs and websites. But I can get inspiration from pretty much everything that surrounds me – recently I crocheted a cushion cover in the colours of a London tube station for a friend’s birthday!

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
Little C goes to a nearby nursery five days a week, my husband and I have a rota for drop off and pick up – and little C has a jolly good time there! When I’m working on Kurkuma (which I try to do at least on some weekends), my husband would do things with Little C, for example a bike ride, so I get some time for myself.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
I have just under one hour’s commute, which is a good opportunity to let the day sink in and get into the right set of mind for what’s next: Family! I recently started a work diary, where I write down thoughts, good and bad things from my day at work and what I could do differently the next day. I do this on my commute back home – it takes only a few tube stops to get it done but the impact is great. It allows me to get thoughts out of my head so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I recently joined the gym at my workplace and I find that a really good way to switch off or get a clear head – I don’t manage to go as often as I’d like to but whenever I do it, I feel great and can go home with a fresh mind (or start with one if I exercise in the morning).

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
Probably pretty much the same… I would take more leave and go away more often with my family. I might think of getting someone to do my life admin for me ☺ And then I would take time out from my real life job to put all the ideas I have for Kurkuma into practice!

If you had to describe your son in just three words, what would you say?
Happy, independent, greedy…

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
…a happy, optimistic woman who enjoys life, a food-lover, maker of things, a little bit of a hoarder (you never know when you might need that empty glass jar and that piece of ribbon!), an enthusiastic conservator, sometimes too perfectionist.

You can browse Anna’s crafty creations at Kurkuma on Folksy and follow her on twitter @anna_kurkuma. If you find something you’d like to buy, Anna is offering free shipping (if you order from Folksy) to all Mothering Mushroom readers within the UK. Just quote “Mushroom” at the checkout and she will reimburse your shipping costs via paypal.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.


Sarah Beeson MBE – A (Grand!) Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was back in January with Proudly Imperfect Parent Dr.Karen Osburn (from Mom@41), adoptive Mummy to two boys. Karen was very generous as she shared the story of how she became a Mum at 41 and how the reality of motherhood led her to create the Mom at 41 community, ‘Embracing Imperfect Moms Everywhere’. Read Karen’s interview to find out more.

Today’s Mummy Plus is actually a GrandMummy Plus – Sarah Beeson MBE, author of The New Arrival – a heartwarming memoir of her time training to be a nurse in the 70s, and brand new parenting book, Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby, which was launched earlier this summer at a series of events including one I attended for working mums, which was a lovely mix of networking, sharing stories and eating cake! Of course, in addition to writing a baby advice book and two memoir books (part two – She’s Arrived! is coming soon!) spanning her career as one of the youngest health visitors in the country, Sarah is also mum to Amy Beeson, and grandmother to Amy’s Little One, four-year-old Ava.

I caught up with Sarah at her Modern Mothers event and asked her a few questions:

Nursing syllabus and watchIt’s lovely to see you again Sarah. I last saw you at the launch of your memoir, The New Arrival, after which I interviewed your daughter Amy. How has the Happy Baby Happy Family project been different to your memoir?   
Well actually, the baby advice book was the first one Amy and I wrote and sent to agents and Harper Collins responded immediately, offering us the best package. It was Harper Collins that asked for two volumes of memoirs, which we actually wrote after Happy Baby, Happy Family, although The New Arrival was the first published. She’s Arrived follows on from this and covers when I started my health visitor training in Kent.

Writing the memoir was quite different to the baby book! Having my nurses schedule helped to make sure everything was in chronological order – we used to have to write down absolutely everything we learned on this schedule, which was signed by the ward sister. I kept all of mine so this really helped.

Sarah and AmyI asked Amy last year what it was like working so closely with Mum, so… What’s it like working so closely with your daughter?
It’s lovely. We have a really close bond so it’s an enjoyable experience. We talk every day anyway so it’s just that some of those calls would be much longer skype calls to go over the details. Logistically it could be a bit tricky, with us not being in the same place but emotionally we are on the same wavelength, which helps! Amy’s role on the baby book was more of an editing one but with the memoirs, she had much more creative input. She used to come on some of my rounds with me so she has a good understanding of the work and was able to get much more involved with these books.

How would you compare your experience of work and motherhood to Amy’s?
Actually, in terms of parenting, I see many similarities. Amy has a really gentle approach and treats Ava with respect. I think this is so important. All children, even babies, should be respected and treated as people with emotional as well as physical needs. People don’t realise just how much of an effect even harsh words have on children and I’m not an advocate of the naughty step. I think being punitive is cruel. Often, children just need more choices. They have so little control over anything and if they don’t get choices, they can become angry and frustrated. That said, I really do think that this generation of parents is the best yet. We are seeing mums and dads who put their children’s best interests at heart more than ever before.

Sarah and AvaHow it being Grandma different to being Mum?
Oh it’s just wonderful seeing how your own child is with their children. I always used to see grandparents so besotted with their grandchildren and I just didn’t get it until I had my own. And the experience is just so, so full of joy.

Is there anything from your experiences that you would change if you could?
No. You make your choices and try to live by them. I take a positive attitude (although that’s not always easy every day!). I did face many challenges throughout my career as a result of speaking up but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Parents deserve a good service! It was important to be professional at all times but something needed to be said. Even now, more needs to be done. I really feel for social workers at the moment – they are so maligned, getting the blame when things go wrong and they haven’t intervened and being called ‘awful’ when they do – they can’t win! I worked very closely with social workers throughout my career and most are good people.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
I have always been driven by a vocation to nurse. From the age of 17, I never considered anything else. It was my calling. As for writing the book, I was so motivated that I left work on the Friday and started writing it the following Monday! I worked from 9am – 1pm every day, stopping only for a coffee at 11am. I had a routine and it worked – that’s how I met the deadlines for all three books!

I wrote Happy Baby Happy Family following all the requests for baby advice I received from Amy’s friends after Ava was born that I’d been to Amy by email. I wanted it to be a handy guide for the first year of baby’s life – a sort of health visitor in a book as of course no health visitor could possibly cover everything! The book became my new vocation, although I still love seeing people 1:1 and sharing my advice and experiences through blogs, at events and via #AskSarah.

If you had to describe Amy and Ava in just three words (that’s three each!), what would you say?

Amy – Enthusiastic, Capable, Caring.

Ava – Energetic, Empathetic, Joyful.

And finally…

What one piece of advice would you give to modern mothers today?
Trust Yourself. You know your baby better than anybody else and have his or her best interests at heart.

If you have any burning questions about parenting and would like a direct line to Sarah, you’ve got one! You can just #AskSarah anything via Facebook, Twitter or directly via the website and she’ll write you an answer packed with plenty of advice/suggestions.

Giveaway… Giveaway… Giveaway…

THE NEW ARRIVAL medium cover image - Copy

I have one signed copy of The New Arrival to give away* to one lucky reader! To be in with a chance of winning, simply comment below. If you’d like to add an #AskSarah question to your comment, please do and I’ll pass it on! The winner will be announced on Friday 11th September (I’ll give you the summer as I know many of you are on hols/taking blogging breaks) and Mushroom will pick a name from a hat (I’m old fashioned like that) – I’ll post a photo here to show the competition is closed. Good luck!

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.


*There may be a small charge for shipping if the winner is outside of the UK.


Mushroom Makes… Trouser puppets!

So I don’t know whether ‘Mushroom Makes’ will be a regular thing but I’m sure I’ll be posting his creations from school soon enough and you may have noticed I can’t resist a little alliteration (see?) so a new post category is born!

Last week, Mushroom was lamenting the fact he couldn’t wear a pair of his favourite trousers as he’d fallen in them and they had a big hole in one knee. I asked whether he’d like to recycle them and he was wide-eyed, ‘Make them into something else? Like a bottle or tissues?’ (We have talked about recycling mostly in the context of glass, paper and plastic). I said we could make new clothes and trouser puppets. So here’s a slideshow of our efforts:

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We were very proud of ourselves and the shorts are a firm wardrobe favourite now!